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Basic Explanation

This test uses sound waves to make a moving picture of the heart called an echocardiogram, also known as a cardiac ultrasound or sonogram. The sound waves are not felt by the person having the test and are not known to be harmful. The test does not hurt, but small children may be afraid of the room, the machine, and the new people performing the test.

In general, most children cooperate with the test and no sedative needs to be given. However, a light sedative may be given (with parental consent) if necessary. The test will usually take anywhere from 15 minutes to one hour.

A colorless gel is applied to the chest areas where the transducer, an electronic device similar to a microphone that converts sound into electrical or digital signals, will be placed to obtain various views of the heart.  The patient may be asked at certain stages to move slightly, hold the breath, or breathe slowly.

Electrodes will be placed on the patient’s chest during the test to measure the heart’s electrical activity while the echocardiogram is being taken. These are attached using adhesive patches and produce an ECG (electrocardiogram), which allows the technician to recognize phases of the heart’s rhythm.

In general, the results of interpreting the echocardiogram will be given to the patient or  to a child’s parent or guardian by the cardiologist on the day of the visit or after the study has been reviewed.